Prochlorococcus Marinus Cell Growth, Aggregate Formation and TEP Production under Nutrient Limited Conditions
Prochlorococcus marinus (MED4), a genus of marine picocyanobacteria that proliferates in open oligotrophic ocean, is one of the most abundant photosynthetic microbes in the world, estimated to contribute up to 10% of the ocean’s primary production. The productivity of these microorganisms is controlled by macronutrient availability in the surface waters. The ratio of macronutrients in the ocean was defined, by Alfred Redfield, as an elemental ratio of 106C:16N:1P. However, the C:N:P ratio varies based on region, season, temperature and irradiance, as well as the composition of the primary producers. In oligotrophic gyres, these nutrient ratios are elevated from the Redfield stoichiometry, but whether this ratio exerts influence on the growth rate of the organism has not been investigated. Elemental stoichiometry of available nutrients can affect the aggregation of organic carbon and exportation of the particles to the ocean depths. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of nutrient limitation on aggregation and transparent exopolymeric particle (TEP) production which aids in aggregation. My findings suggested that nutrient limitation reduces TEP production and does not increase aggregate volume concentration. With continued warming, certain regions of the ocean will become more oligotrophic, which further decreases the nutrient supply available for Prochlorococcus. My research shows that this could lead to decreased exportation of organic carbon matter to the depths of the sea.